Friday, April 07, 2006

->POP!<- Bubble Bursts

Bush has been venturing outside the protection of his invite-only, ass-kiss events and taking some unscripted questions at events open to anyone lately. I'll give him credit for that. At a time when he is truly embattled and hampered by the lowest numbers of his Presidency (yet--they're about to get lower), it is to his credit that he is facing the public. I'd honestly have expected him and Rove to retreat to full protection and propaganda mode.

There's a risk for Bush doing this, someone might actually call him out. And it happened to him yesterday...
Q: [from audience to Bush] You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you’d like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are –

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not your favorite guy. Go ahead. (Laughter and applause.) Go on, what’s your question?

Q Okay, I don’t have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I — in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and –


THE PRESIDENT: No, wait a sec — let him speak.

Q And I would hope — I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself. And I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what I’m saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.

THE PRESIDENT: It is, yes. (Applause.)

That was a North Carolina man named Harry Taylor. You should watch the video. He got off a pretty good shot at Bush, and managed to get quite a few topics in as well.

An how did Bush handle it? With some awkward bady language and one of his chuckling-at-himself jokes. Bush's joke was rude and completely innappropriate given the seriousness of this guy's comments, but it masterfully lightened the mood and impact of anything this guy was going to say for his supporters in the Hall and watching the video. He also squints and shields his eyes while listening to the comments—I think an attempt to diminish this guy's stature, making him seem small, insignificant and distant. In Bush's full response (transcript at the link) he further diminshes the guy, implying that his comments were unwelcome to most people... All in all, I'd say Bush weathers it fairly well, and goes into his stock rhetoric to "answer" the guy's "question", when it was really not a question but an indictment. It's unfortunate that Taylor looks like a wussy liberal straight from Central Casting, but he's got some stones behind those baggy pleats.

Anyway. Go watch the video and raise your glass to Harry Taylor tonite. He got his chance to say something to the President and he did. For all of us, and all of us to see.


Pooh said...

THE PRESIDENT: No, wait a sec — let him speak.

I give him props for this. It's the most American thing he's done in a long time. I'm not joking.

S.W. Anderson said...

I've seen the segment a couple of times. I,too, have to hand it to Bush for handling the situation well overall.

If Bush was on top, with high polls, he could afford to be good natured. It has to be harder knowing his dissatisfied customer has so much company.

For his part, Taylor gets high marks for remaining respectful. He showed you can level stinging criticism without resorting to mean-mouthed, overheated rhetoric or nasty name calling.

Even if they are less than pleased with the president, most people have been brought up to show a certain amount of respect for the office and a certain amount of class even when they're being critical. Most don't want to be a party to an ugly scene.

After some time passed since I last saw the segment, one little thing has nagged at me, however.

Has anyone checked out Taylor to make sure he wasn't a plant? That he looked and sounded almost like someone from central casting — along with Bush's zero-credibility — makes me suspicious. And then there are those memories of Jeff Gannon/Gucket.

Another suspicious thing is that Bush let Taylor make a speech without asking a question. That's not the kind of liberty I've ever seen Bush allow anyone.

No, I'm not saying Taylor is a phony and the thing was set up. I'd just like to see someone who's able do a little background check on the guy.